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Volume 26 No. 231
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Building Sustainable Revenue Models Biggest Challenge Facing Esports

Riot Games' Whalen Rozelle believes esports are looking more and more like traditional sports
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
Riot Games' Whalen Rozelle believes esports are looking more and more like traditional sports
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
Riot Games' Whalen Rozelle believes esports are looking more and more like traditional sports
Photo: TONY FLOREZ

The first panel discussion at the Lagardere Sports Esports Rising conference this year saw industry execs focus on the challenges of building sustainable revenue models. Execs were asked about recent comments from Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban about the viability of owning an esports team in the U.S. Complexity Gaming Founder & CEO Jason Lake said, “He had valid points about revenue. … They take a lot of money and time to build and return revenue for generations. We’re trying to build generational sports properties. Many of the properties will probably be worth north of a billion dollars." Lake added, "If you’re looking to make a quick flip and a quick buck, Mark’s right. You’re probably in the wrong business." But Team Liquid Owner & co-CEO Steve Arhancet was a little more harsh on Cuban. He said, “This is coming from a guy who invested in (esports betting startup) Unikrn. That speaks for itself, in my opinion.”

BELIEVING IN THE FUTURE: Overwatch League Philadelphia Fusion and Spectacor Gaming President Tucker Roberts added, “Depending on who you ask, basketball can be a tough business as well. ... I don’t think there’s more interesting space to be in than esports.” Riot Games Dir of Esports Whalen Rozelle said, “With a decade of longevity and we still have growth, it’s looking more and more like a sport and less and less like a product outside of the game." Arhancet believes team valuations have little bearing on success or longevity. "There’s going to be a lot of esports teams that don’t make it," he said. "They take money from the wrong place (and) are not able to monetize their assets and create a fan base." However, he did say some teams on Forbes' valuation list are "undervalued."

Quick hits:

  • Roberts, on Spectacor Gaming building an esports-specific arena in Philadelphia: “It’s a $50 million investment, 3,500 seats. It will be open Q1 2021. … We’re near New York, near DC, we can do broadcasts for Europe and the West Coast. By moving first, it’s been a huge success out of the gate.”
  • Lake, on esports pros voicing their political concerns: “You need to choose your words wisely and I think that comes alongside education. Leagues and teams are responsible for it. Hey, we respect your free speech, but if it’s going to offend a large group of people, maybe you should think twice about saying that.”